Friday, August 19
Shayne Carter is now recording and touring under his own name – specifically Shayne P. Carter. He has his first solo album out early next month and so first a nervous four-date tour to showcase a small handful of songs from the keyboard-based album and a range of material from his time as Dimmer and with Straightjacket Fits and DoubleHappys.
He’s done this sort of thing before – the Last Train to Brockville shows were a delight, Carter digging deep through the catalogue. But this show was a little different – the huge weight/wait of expectation around those new songs, and so the show built slowly, surely toward the moment where the Offsider material was unveiled. And then, that load off, it hurtled down to the finish line. The hill climbed. Freewheelin’…
The show starts with just Carter squeezing the guitar and Gary Sullivan applying his magic touch to the drums. Drift, from Dimmer’s perfect first album rolls out into place and it’s easy to see and feel – to almost taste and touch also – Carter’s very special connection to and through music. There’s something he’s able to harness, in wrestling with the wah of his guitar that no one else gets close to; his is a sound that is wholly his own, something not many guitarists can – in the end – claim.
James Duncan (also, ex-Dimmer, alongside Sullivan) joins the line-up. He’s one hell of a guitar player himself but tonight he’s the bassist and it’s no reduced role, this fine musician works tirelessly to support Carter’s manoeuvring in and around shoegaze and groove excursions, so thoroughly locked in with Sullivan.
There’s some spit and snarl to Degrees of Existence and then it’s back to the earlier Dimmer for I Believe You Are A Star.
We are treated to a double dose of Straitjacket Fits next, If I Were You from 1993’s Blow and then A.P.S. from 1990’s Melt. And it’s as if Carter never put down the guitar nor strayed from that indie-squall blueprint. These songs hang in the air like giant canvas’ – living tributes to his splatter-paint guitar solos, touched up on the night but the original framing and backdrop still firmly in and of the picture.
Back to Dimmer next for Carter’s most underrated album perhaps – There My Dear – and What’s A Few Tears To The Ocean?
And just as everything is humming along so nicely we get the awkward transition to the keyboard songs. Duncan and Sullivan continue to propel the groove, Sullivan in particular is a forever-highlight, whether hitting down hard with brushes (I Know Not Where I Stand) or finding fresh percussive accents (We Will Rise Again). And though Carter is self-effacing about his rudimentary piano style and skills – and even plays so ham-fistedly as to showcase his middle fingers literally crossed (perhaps even for luck) as he created an ostinato by rocking between thumb and pinkie, two-finger typing with the other hand, banging a wee melody into place just in time to meet the deadline – he does in fact get it over the line. He gets the line out. And it works. Maybe just.
There’s something charming about Carter’s piano-based songs – it’s more obvious after the show hearing the songs on the actual record and I understand and appreciate the deliberate limiting of palette – but he always has a way of finding (and harnessing) the magic. He connects. And it’s a new version of the brood that sweeps across the stage as we hear these new creations. The piano was, unfortunately too loud for Carter’s indelicate touch – and he knew that just as we did, calling for it to be turned down. But there’s no way to say it otherwise, this little cluster of songs slowed the set right down.
Just as well we had DoubleHappys’ Big Fat Elvis to charm everyone.
Just as well we had Crystalator.
And just as well we had a 20-minute groove exploration of Dimmer’s Seed. If you’ve seen Dimmer or Carter before then there’s a chance you’ve heard a version of this – he’s been rocking back on this rolled-up blaze of sound since, well, since it was one of the seedlings of Dimmer’s early career. And yet every time he plays it the version on stage that unfurls is the only version that matters. That’s another part of Carter’s magic right there: to almost always seem newly definitive.
It’s an interesting time for (Shayne P.) Carter – this felt like a quick hit-out to ensure match-fitness. How the Offsider songs will fully integrate – and whether they will – is another story. He’s both the great underrated/underappreciated talent and the most revered of our sonic architects. A small, faithful crowd know that he’s absolutely one of the ones – but what does he get as a result of that? I wish the world for Shayne Carter because he a) deserves at least that and b) has opened up a huge world of sound for me personally. But I’m not sure that Offsider is going to the be the album/tour/phase that sells his full scope. Someone should nominate Gary Sullivan as New Zealander of the year for this and any year for his services to the groove. His playing is immaculate and always exactly what’s required. He and Duncan form a hypnotic, mesmeric rhythm section – which is what you want from a rhythm section; it’s all anyone could want. And when Carter was slouched over his guitar, standing back to let it issue the sound after wrangling and wrestling with it there was the echo of being transported – the very best of Shayne Carter’s music will always take you somewhere. It’s whether it really gets him anywhere that I’m starting to worry about. Fingers crossed eh?